Empire by Obligation
When one hears the term imperialism, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the vast British Empire, expanding all around the world, spreading culture, beliefs and ideas. Or perhaps the United States of America, plunging ever deeper into the vast continent, opening up land for settlement by its people. England is known for its military involvement in the countries it colonized; openly using military force on all those who opposed its policy. The US on the other hand, tries to appear as though it uses a more civilized policy to accomplish goals, but truthfully was only denying the facts. After my analysis of both countries activities during the 19th and early 20th centuries I have come to a resounding truth: No matter the exact policy used by both nations, both justified it with the same obligation: the obligation of higher races to bring civilization to barbaric peoples. British Imperialism
Great Britain made no attempt to hide her aggressiveness when it came to total exploitation of her colonies. This seems most evident in the smuggling of opium into China. Until the 1820’s the favor had remained with the Chinese in regard to trade, for they had little to gain from European countries. But when England began the smuggling of opium, grown in the English colony of India, this was dramatically reversed.1 In 1839, Lin Tse-Hsu wrote a letter to Queen Victoria dealing with the issue of the smuggling of opium. In the letter he regards England as “an honorable country…noted for their politeness and submissiveness.”2 He then states the fact that there are smugglers in a way that gives room for the idea that maybe the Queen did not already know of them. Before asking for an end to the practice, he points out the fact that he believes that “All those people in China who sell opium or smoke opium should receive the death penalty.”2 He asks “where is your conscience?”2 and then goes on to point out the fact that China produces many things of use for other countries and if it was not for this toxic substance, England wouldn’t have much of value to offer them: Of all that China exports to foreign countries, there is not a single thing which is not beneficial to people: they are of benefit when eaten, or of benefit when used, or of benefit when resold: all are beneficial. Is there a single article from China which has done any harm to foreign countries? Take tea and rhubarb, for example; the foreign countries cannot get along for a single day without them. If China cuts off these benefits with no sympathy for those who are to suffer, then what can the barbarians rely upon to keep themselves alive? 2
Lin Tse-Hsu then tried to appeal to her reasonable side, asking “Suppose a man of another country comes to England to trade, he still has to obey the English laws; how much more shoul4d he obey in China the laws of the Celestial Dynasty?”2 He finishes with a call to action on behalf of the British government, May you, O King, check your wicked and sift your wicked people before they come to China, in order to guarantee the peace of your nation, to show further the sincerity of your politeness and submissiveness, and to let the two countries enjoy together the blessings of peace.2 The British did not head this call, and instead being backed by their merchants in China, England sent forces to China, shutting down many of its ports. Ending with the Treaty of Nanjing, England established its dominance by opening ports, fixing taxes on traded goods, gaining Hong-Kong, and receiving silver to pay for her war expenses.1 The way England nonchalantly establishes these treaties that are obviously in her favor is the major difference between her public policy and that of the United States. The British first gained influence in India through the East India Trading Company.3 India’s wealth was great, and the possibility of controlling and profiting from their trade was...